Since the invention of moveable type and printing presses, no greater technological advance in communication has assumed such a strong position in helping people spread news and views to more people further and faster than the information highway of zeros and ones. But as with many marvels of the modern world the ushering in of the age of the internet has served to both bring humanity closer together and tear it asunder.
If you’re anything like me one of my first acts of the day as I swing myself out of bed in the morning is to reach for my personal information device. Let’s not kid ourselves here. To call these things phones is akin to referring to formula one race cars as commuter vehicles. They are precision information dissemination devices. They are the new window on our world and fewer people around the globe are without them with each passing day. They have become a major force in not only how we communicate but how we understand and relate to one another.
I’m an information junky. I love to discover new things, communicate with new acquaintances and be informed as soon as stuff important to me happens. I don’t subscribe to a paper, find the local news about as interesting as drying paint and prefer the ability to interact instead of simply react to the world at large. My personal information device allows me to do this. In fact if I want to create or become the news I can do so from the palm of my hand, 24 hours a day, from nearly anywhere in the world. It’s as terrifying as it is amazing.
Let’s address the amazing first. Within seconds of a personal or natural disaster emergency responders can be dispatched and the world can watch the drama unfold. A person with one of these devices can share with the world what is happening in real time. Viewers can listen and watch whatever is considered newsworthy by the person wielding one of these devices. There’s no excuse to not know what’s going on in your neighborhood, across town or across the vastness of oceans. It’s always on, and always ready to provide the curious with information.
What about the terrifying aspects of being hooked into the information highway? It’s just as easy to share things with the world that are meant to horrify and hurt as it is to share helpful information and healing insight. With any number of political and dogmatic driven fanatics around the globe, the horror of missions carried out for the purpose of mass mayhem and terrorism stare us in the face, and we barely blink as we soak it all in as it happens. The question is does it serve a greater purpose to constantly and willingly expose ourselves to the stress inducing information we have available to us day in and day out? It’s literally killing us.
I believe in the basic freedom of speech. It’s part of the liberty that makes the country I call home so appealing to me personally. I also believe that this freedom can be abused and used against people if they allow it. Freedom does come with a price. Sometimes this freedom to expose ourselves to things on a daily, if not hourly basis is harmful to our ability to make rational and sound decisions. Not all information is accurate and true. Much of what we see and hear and read about on our little personal information device is little more than distraction, keeping us from accomplishing those things that will help us make things better for ourselves and those around us.
We are a world obsessed with wanting to know and experience everything through this little window on the world that we hold in our hand. Used in moderation and with self control this information can be extremely enlightening and helpful. But it is difficult in as world of promoted excessiveness to think or act in terms of moderation. I feel if we want our lives, our mental health and our freedom from fear and anxiety to remain intact we have to be more disciplined in our acceptance of the information that is handed to us every second of every day of our lives.
Lay some ground rules for knowing when you’ve absorbed enough information. Know your limitations when it comes to stress brought on by information overload and put a stop to binge watching or reading.
Select carefully what you spend your time immersed in on the information highway. Set both a time limit and a genre’ limit on the information you absorb each day. Balance the negative with the positive and don’t get sucked into the drama, real or manufactured, that will keep you from being more productive on a daily basis.
When you are in the presence of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, silence and put your personal information device away. Not only does texting and info trolling take its toll on those who choose to exercise their freedom to do so in unsafe situations and surroundings, it also takes a toll on meaningful communication with the people you are with. I can’t think of a worse turn off than trying to hold a meaningful conversation with someone who insists on diverting their attention away from your discussion to their phone every few minutes. Simply put, it’s selfish and rude.
Have a frank discussion with those younger loved ones who may not yet understand how important relating to real people in their lives is as compared to endlessly immersing themselves in the unfolding opera in the palm of their hand. Create some real life activity diversions that involve eye contact, personal input and physical exertion. It might just open up some unexpected new interests that are yet to be discovered.
The freedom to have information at our fingertips is a wonderful thing. It’s the overuse and abuse of this information that can lead to unhealthy physical and emotional stress. Picking and choosing what to absorb, how much and when to let it into your life is a responsibility that we all need to consider. TMI, or Too Much Information, is a social disease of increasing epidemic proportion that each of us must self inoculate against.
Maybe beginning the day with a nice mind clearing walk instead of reaching for a mind numbing ride on the information highway isn’t such a bad idea.
"I simply write what I feel, because it matters to me. Hopefully some of it will resonate with and matter to you as well" - MDD